James Jackson Jarves


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference


Writer, critic, and collector. Although he lived abroad for much of his life, The Art-Idea: Sculpture, Painting, and Architecture in America (1864) remains a major document in the development of American art criticism. His collection of Italian paintings, glass, and textiles enriched American art museums. As a critic, Jarves boldly dismissed the prevailing emphasis on realism in mid-century American painting. Instead, he championed the more poetic and painterly approach of such artists as George Inness and William Morris Hunt, who represented the emerging aesthetic of the late nineteenth century. Similarly, in his approach to art of the past, Jarves preferred those forms that emphasize concepts and spiritual values. Steeped in French and Italian taste, he also appreciated Japanese art at an early date. Born in Boston and privately educated, between 1840 and 1848 Jarves intermittently edited the first newspaper published in Hawaii. After returning to the United States, he acted on behalf of Hawaii in negotiating an 1849 treaty that governed Hawaiian-American relations for half a century. In 1851 he departed for Europe, where he soon established a permanent residence in Florence. There he began to collect art, discerningly favoring the so-called “primitives” who predated the High Renaissance. The core of his painting collection eventually went to the Yale University Art Gallery. From 1880 to 1882 he served as the U.S. vice consul in Florence. He died while on vacation in Switzerland. Jarves's other books include History of the Hawaiian or Sandwich Islands (1843), Art Hints (1855), Art Studies; The “Old Masters” of Italy (1861), Art Thoughts, the Experiences and Observations of an American Amateur in Europe (1870), A Glimpse of the Art of Japan (1876), and Italian Rambles (1883).

Subjects: Art — Literature.

Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.